The tragic death of Olive Cooke, a poppy seller from Bristol who felt bombarded by requests for support from multiple charities and took her own life, has highlighted the significant industry which is charitable giving.
Olive’s story is more complex than the headlines would make us believe in that the inquest into her death last week heard that she had long-term issues with ‘periodic depression’.
However, what happened to Olive does not reflect well on some of the major charities and the way in which they go about fundraising.
I enjoy getting fresh air at lunchtime by walking from my office into the centre of Lancaster, but one of the things I do not enjoy about my stroll through the city is the street fundraising which goes on by so called ‘chuggers’.
The word chugger is a portmanteau of “charity” and “mugger” and sometimes it can be uncomfortable being asked to stop and sign up to donate.
What motivates people to give to charity is another fascinating area.
In January this year, a charity called Harrison’s Fund, which supports those living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, set out to highlight the lack of public awareness of the condition with a controversial advertising campaign.
The charity placed two versions of the same advert for two days asking people to donate £5 “to save Harrison from a slow painful death”. The catch was that in one of the adverts there was an image of a child and in the other a picture of a dog.
In February, the charity released the results of the experiment which revealed that the dog received twice as many hits as the picture of Harrison.
The real shock though is that Harrison is a real child who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which led Harrison’s dad to say “I wish my son was a dog”. I can see what he means
Some local charities like CancerCare are members of the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB), a self-regulatory scheme which promotes ethical fundraising.
It is to be hoped that the sad case of Olive Cooke will not overshadow the fantastic work which ethical fundraisers do for many charities up and down the country.